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Picking a veterinarian will likely turn out to be one of the most important relationship your pet will have in their life. For your pet is not much different than picking a healthcare provider for yourself. You may prefer a provider who gets to the point quickly or one who engages in lengthy discussions. You may want someone within a 5-mile radius from home or you may be willing to drive across town in traffic to see them. You’ll want to consider many of the same factors to find a veterinarian for your pet.
So where should you start?
Hopefully we'll help you get started by covering how to choose a vet, where to take your pet for emergency care, and what to do if you can’t afford a vet. How do I choose the right vet for my pet? Understanding there’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a provider or a vet, since you and your pet have specific needs. The right provider, or the right vet in this case, is one who can meet those needs.
To identify your pet’s needs, ask yourself these important questions:
How you answer these questions will help you narrow down your veterinarian search. Then it’s time to start searching.
Think about how you chose your current provider. Did a friend recommend them? Did you talk to other people who have the same conditions that you do? These are just a few of the ways you could pick a vet as well. Ask a friend. Start your search by asking friends, family members, and neighbors for recommendations. Talk to them about what they like about their vet, their office, and their staff. Also ask if they’ve encountered any problems. Talk to your trainer, a local breed club. If you have a purebred dog or cat, talk to breed club members in your area. They may be able to recommend vets who specialize in your pet’s species or breed.
Consider convenience. You may want a vet who’s close to your home, office, or pet daycare to make visits easy for you to coordinate. Find out if a vet’s regular office hours fit with your schedule. Think about what matters to you. It’s important to consider what you value in pet care. For instance, if you want your pet to see the same vet at each visit, you may want to pick a small practice with only one vet. If you’d rather get in for same-day appointments, you may want a practice with multiple vets.
Consider your views on routine care, care for elderly pets, and behavioral problems, and pick a vet with similar views. Visit the vet’s office. Things to look for in a vet’s office include a clean lobby, tidy exam rooms, and a friendly, caring staff. Also take note of the pet owners and pets sitting in the lobby. Have they been waiting a long time and is the staff interacting with them? As you wrap up your visit, you should feel good about bringing your pet to their office.
The importance of establishing a vet client-patient relationship the American Veterinary Medical Association has established guidelines for vets and their patients called the veterinary-client-patient-relationship (VCPR). When a vet examines, diagnoses, treats, and follows up with a pet, they establish a VCPR relationship. A VCPR relationship is important because it allows your vet to get to know and care for your pet long-term. It also allows your vet to diagnose and treat your animal via telehealth apps. Only vets you have an established relationship with can diagnose or treat your pet through telehealth. Vets who work with telehealth apps Many vets have gone digital this past year. They provide services via telehealth apps like PetDesk or PetPro Connect. If having a telehealth option for your pet is important to you, keep this in mind as you look for a vet. You can search for your vet’s name on a pet telehealth app or call and ask the vet if they offer telehealth.
How do I find an emergency vet? Ask your vet how they handle emergency situations. Some vets may rotate with other vets in their practice to offer emergency care after hours. Other veterinarians partner with local emergency clinics, animal hospitals, or veterinary schools. Make sure you ask your vet what you should do if something serious happens to your pet that requires urgent care. If your animal has an emergency and you don’t have an established vet yet, go to a local emergency animal hospital.
How do I know if my vet is good? First and foremost, a good vet genuinely cares about your pet’s health. They want what’s best for your furry family member and they want you to have peace of mind every time you come for a visit. But to know for certain if you’ve picked a good vet, ask yourself the following questions: Does my vet make my pet feel comfortable? It’s not unusual for a pet to be anxious when visiting a vet. That’s why it’s important to find a vet who makes your pet (and you) feel at ease. Their front office staff should be ready with treats and a smile. The vet assistant should be willing to comfort your pet as needed. And your vet should take their time and work with your pet to help them feel secure.
Does my vet take time to listen to my concerns? Even though your vet is a trained animal expert, they don’t know your pet as well as you do. A good vet will listen to your concerns, especially if you notice something seems off with your pet. They also take their time answering your questions, so you never feel rushed. Does my vet thoroughly examine my pet? A good vet will examine your pet from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail, looking for anything unusual. They will check their teeth and gums, look into their ears, and rub their bellies, checking for potential issues. If a vet finds anything unusual, they will recommend running tests or further examinations.
How much money do vet services cost? The cost of pet care services varies widely and depends on many factors. This could include your animal’s age and breed, the type of visit (preventive versus emergency), and your location. But to give you a general idea, yearly routine vet visits cost around $212 for dogs and $160 for cats. Emergency care visits run much higher, depending on your pet’s trauma or illness. An initial emergency exam may cost around $100 to $150 for cats or dogs. Simple emergency surgery typically starts at $1,500 for cats and $1,800 for dogs. Costs for one of the most common surgeries — if your pet eats something they shouldn’t — averages $3,000 for dogs but can run much higher. The cost of telehealth visits also varies, depending on your vet’s fees. Telehealth vet services may be similar to in-person fees. Virtual visits on general pet care apps can range from $5 for a single question on PetCoach to $129.99 a year.
What should I do if I can’t afford a vet? Even the best pet parents can run into financial difficulties when it comes to paying for veterinary care. We highly recommend carrying insurance on your pets, which may seem like a pain up front, but can save you a lot of money should an emergency arise. The Humane Society of the United States has a list of resources that can help: If you want your vet to continue caring for your pet, ask about payment plans or find out if they accept CareCredit, a credit card designed to help you pay medical expenses for people and pets. PetSmart Charities offers low-cost spay and neuter clinics at PetSmart stores, community humane societies, and other animal care organizations across the U.S. Veterinary colleges in your area may offer low-cost programs and clinics for pet care. Look for a school that’s accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Feeding Pets of the Homeless provides pet food, shelter, and other resources for animals in communities across the country. If you find yourself in an overwhelming financial situation, you could try raising funds through Waggle, a crowdfunding platform specifically designed for pets. Pet prescriptions can also be costly. You can save money by using GoodRx to look for coupons and discounts at your local pharmacy.
The bottom line Your search for the right vet starts with you and your preferences as well as your pet and their needs. Look for a veterinarian whose views align with yours and who offers the right expertise for your furry friend. Ask friends and family members for recommendations. Make sure your vet’s fees work within your budget or your vet offers payment plans. And visit a vet’s office to make sure it’s clean and welcoming.
Again choosing a veterinarian will affect you and your animals life. It is important to spend time finding the right partner to work as a team for your pet throughout their lifetime!
DISCLAIMER: Due to the lack of regulations and the nature of the animal industry, as well as the changing practices of pet professionals - Midwest Animal Welfare Society, Inc. cannot be responsible for the actions of other pet professional companies and organizations. This includes pet professionals that have trained under the Life Changing Dog Training™ and Communicative LeashWork Process®. We will do our very best to connect you with pet resources and services and educate you on best practices, tools and information to help pet owners. However it is up to you the individual to do your own research and make a decision to hire a pet professional or work with an organization that will best meet you and your animal's needs.
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THE HEARTLAND'S ANIMAL WELFARE SPECIALISTS